The Rise of the “How To” Movie

Screencasting goes commercial?

I’m a huge fan of screencasting — short “movies”, most often of what you’re doing on your PC as a easier way of explaining how to use a piece of software — and I think it has huge potential. (Here’s a loose wire directory of screencasting stuff.) So it’s not much of a surprise that folk are going to try to make money from it. One of the first out of the traps is Tubetorial, which offers a bunch of “how to” screencasts supported by ads.

Initial reactions are mixed. Lee Odden of Web Pro News interviews the guy behind Tubetorial, Brian Clark of Copyblogger, who says he’s hoping viewers will submit their own screencasts. Darren Rowse of problogger wonders whether it’s going to be possible to maintain quality and whether video lends itself to the kind of audience they’re after. Martin Neumann of ePublishingDaily.com wonders at the mismatch between the (wet floor Web 2.0) glitz of the site, and the rather less polished videos themselves.

My tupennies’ worth? These kinds of things, like podcasts, can vary in quality wildly. It’s easy enough to do a screencast, just as it’s easier enough to do a podcast. But to raise the quality to a professional, or semi-professional level, requires a lot of post-production work. I would expect to see more of the latter in something like this, if the user is expected to view it as a ‘commercial product’, with what we Brits call commercials tagged on the end.

Secondly, delivery is important. A huge amount of blog inches is dedicated to making blog posts zing, and yet a lot of people making podcasts and videocasts and screencasts don’t seem to apply the same rules. The script should be tight, entertaining and informative. The delivery should also be, and, if video is involved, so too should that. If you’re talking to camera, as presenters on tubetorials do, look good, rehearsed and at the camera.

That said, I think screencasts as a way of conveying information are the way to go, and these guys are definitely worth watching.

Directory of Screencasting Resources

Updated Nov 13 2006: added a piece on screencasting in Linux which looks helpful, albeit complicated.

This week’s WSJ.com column, out Friday, is about screencasting (you can find all my columns here; subscription only, I’m afraid):

Screencasts are really simple to grasp. And in some ways they’re not new. But I, and a few thousand other people, think they represent a great way to leverage the computer to train, educate, entertain, preach and otherwise engage other people in a very simple way. Something the Internet and computers have so far largely failed to do.

Screencasts are basically little movies you create on your computer. In most cases, they are movies of your computer. You use special software to capture what keystrokes and mouse clicks you make on your screen – demonstrating how to use Google, say (the screen bit of screencasting — and then, once you’ve edited and added a voiceover, upload it to your Web site and let everyone else watch it (the casting bit.) It’s as simple as that.

Here are some links that may help. Not everyone calls what they do screencasting, but most do. There’s tons more stuff out there, but most of these sites will take you there too.

Introductions

Software

Screencasts

Uses of screencasts